If you’re on the lookout for an exciting creature to observe, the sea pudding probably isn’t it.
Known as a sea cucumber or sea pudding, you’ll find this strange creature with a leathery appearance sitting still on the shallow ocean floor and in sea grass beds. Not particularly pretty, they range in colour from black to pale brown with black markings. They grow to be about 11 inches (30 cm) long, but their growth rate is entirely dependent on their environment. If a sea cucumber is starving, it begins to eat itself, gradually becoming smaller and smaller.
Despite their apparent inactivity, native sea puddings are actually very important to the island’s ecosystem. They eat vast amounts of sand and effectively remove various bacteria and micro-organisms, thus helping reduce ocean deoxygenation, a critical yet under reported side effect of climate change.
Research shows that sea cucumbers’ presence leads to more productive seagrass beds due to spreading the nutrients throughout the ocean floor. They also help provide the raw materials that corals need to grow their exoskeletons by dissolving calcium carbonate and then expelling it back out into the water.
While appearing to be motionless and dull, you’ll still want to be careful if you pick one up for a closer look. When disturbed, sea puddings occasionally expel their respiratory organs in sticky white strands! Fortunately, these internal organs regenerate. Perhaps they’re exciting after all!